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Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano

and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton

today announced new initiatives as part of the Department’s ongoing immigration

detention reform efforts—enhancing the security and efficiency of ICE’s nationwide

detention system while prioritizing the health and safety of detainees.

“These new initiatives will improve accountability and safety in our detention facilities as

we continue to engage in smart and effective enforcement of our nation’s immigration

laws,” said Secretary Napolitano.

“These new reforms will establish consistent standards across the country, prioritizing

risk, strengthening oversight and increasing efficiency in our immigration detention

system,” Assistant Secretary John Morton said.

The reform efforts address the seven major components of the detention system outlined

in a comprehensive review conducted by Dora Schriro, the former ICE Office of

Detention Policy and Planning Director, over the past several months, focusing on greater

federal oversight, specific attention to detainee care, and uniformity at detention facilities.

Each of the reforms announced today are expected to be budget neutral or result in cost

savings through reduced reliance on contractors to perform key federal duties and

additional oversight of all contracts.

Secretary Napolitano and Assistant Secretary Morton also announced that Phyllis Coven

will serve as Acting Director of the Office of Detention Policy and Planning while a

nationwide search for a permanent director is underway. Coven, who has 17 years of

experience in the federal government and international community, comes to ICE from

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Throughout her career, Coven has chaired

numerous detention initiatives at the Department of Justice and the former Immigration

and Naturalization Service.

To better manage all detainee populations, ICE will centralize all contracts under ICE

headquarters’ supervision. Currently, the majority of more than 300 active contracts are

negotiated and managed by disparate ICE field offices. ICE will also aggressively

monitor and enforce contract performance in order to ensure contractors comply with

terms and conditions—especially those related to conditions of confinement.

To advance the effective use of alternatives to detention (ATD), ICE will develop an

assessment tool to identify aliens suitable for ATD and will submit a plan to Congress

this fall to implement an ATD program nationwide. ICE will continue to work with the

Department of Justice to expedite the adjudication of ATD cases to reduce costs.

To better manage detention operations, ICE will develop a risk assessment and

custody classification, which will enable detainees to be placed in an appropriate facility.

ICE will pursue detention strategies based on assessed risk and reduce costs by exploring

the use of converted hotels, nursing homes and other residential facilities.

To better manage special populations and improve program management, ICE will

house non-criminal, non-violent populations, such as newly arriving asylum seekers, at

facilities commensurate with risk and expand programs available including legal support


To enhance detainee medical care, ICE will devise and implement a medical

classification system that will improve awareness of an individual detainee’s medical and

mental health conditions from the time the individual first enters detention.

To ensure accountability and reduce reliance on contractors, ICE will more than double

the number of federal personnel providing onsite oversight at the facilities where the

majority of detainees are housed. ICE will also accelerate efforts to provide an online

search system for attorneys, family members and others to locate detained aliens.

On Aug. 6, 2009, Assistant Secretary Morton announced the first steps in ICE’s detention

  • verhaul—including the creation of the Office of Detention Policy and Planning, the

formation of two advisory groups comprised of local and national stakeholders and the

establishment of the Office of Detention Oversight, an independent apparatus to inspect

facilities and investigate detainee grievances.

For more information on the ICE detention reforms, visit